Thursday, June 27, 2013

Storage Wars

The other day I tried out a new recipe and made some black bean humus. It was seasoned with garlic, cilantro, lime juice and so yummy! After I ate one (or five) servings, the recipe said to store in an airtight container in the fridge. There was just the right amount left that the game began to pick the right size storage bowl.

Now first of all, all that I have in my kitchen, old butter dishes and KFC take out side dishes included (Oh you know you were excited too when you saw that fun little dish said dishwasher safe!), is all referred to as Tupperware. Sorry Rubbermaid and Glad, you will forever be Tupperware to me.
The next thing you should know about my kitchen is when we moved several years ago I purged all bowls and lids that had no mates. I keep all the dishes in one space of my kitchen and all the lids in a big box in another space. (Will there ever be a perfect way to store bowls and lids?)

So the infamous game began of eyeballing the amount of my remaining fabulous hummus in the serving dish and picking the perfect size Tupperware to keep it in. Side note here, I have so many memories of being in my mom's kitchen after a big meal and playing this game. She was a champ at this and would get it perfect nearly every time. I was queen of picking a bowl that was waaay to big and nearly eliminted the whole concept of storing leftovers in a smaller container, or the other extreme, choosing and filling a Tupperware completely and finding myself with three more spoonfuls left of food that were just NOT going to fit. Makes me giggle to think about it. Maybe this explains why I can never accurately judge and serve myself the proper chips to salsa ratio either! I digress.

Back to the point of the story. By now, I'm sure you can guess what happened. I found the perfect size Tupperware and won the Will-All-This-Fit-In-Here game with flying colors. In fact, I was pleased with my bowl choice as it was one I had not used in a while due to it's size. All was well with the universe. I move my perfectly portioned remaining hummus over to the other counter to get the lid out of the Tupperware lid box. I remember this bowl specifically even though I haven't used it in a while, it's a royal blue square with a little tab on the side. These kinds of details are the ones that we women memorize that baffle and entertain my hubby. Grin. I began hunting for the lid. I know it's in there. I'm sure of it. But, I'm not finding it. So I take out some of the lids so I can better hunt. A new game has begun that I am NOT winning and quickly moves from a game to Mission Impossible as I empty the ENTIRE big box of lids looking for the small royal blue square with the tab on the side. It is not here and nowhere to be found among this plethora of perfectly formed plastic. Aggravation sets in. And then the next round of choices begins. Do I just eat the remaining amount hummus now? Oh don't judge me, I told you it was a small bowl. haha Do I foil the top and hope I remember to throw the bowl away after I finish my yummy hummus in a few days? No, it needs to be in something airtight and likely I'll forget the dish has no top and find myself in this same predicament at a later date! So my only option is to go back and play the Will-All-This-Fit-In-Here game again and hope I can win two times in a row. I did find another Tupperware and it's matching lid, although it was not as a perfect fit at my first try and thus our little story has an end.

As I began cleaning up all my bowls and lids it occurred to me, well first, that it's time to match and purge all my Tupperware again! Haha  But more importantly how many times in my life do I store and keep things that just really wont help me or are just no match for my life?  Old wounds. Unrealistic expectations. Unfulfilled longings. Regret. Worry. An ungrateful attitude. It's interesting to think about how many containers we have in our hearts. Spaces we make within our selves to put pieces of our souls. I think there are many moments in life we are to store up airtight as treasures just like Mary did when the shepherds came at the birth of Jesus. But like the Tupperware in my kitchen, my heart needs a regular purging. Throwing away all the containers that just don't work for me anymore.

Jesus had something to say about the Tupperware of his day. In Matthew 9:17 he says this:
Neither is new wine put into old wineskins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved. 
(Im sure wineskin translates to Tupperware somewhere.)

What a great picture. My old sinful heart cannot hold the new wine of Jesus' love. It bursts every single time. But Jesus said he makes all things new including my heart and it's ability to be loved by the King. On my own I try to earn his love and make space to hold parts of my soul that really need to be thrown out.  But through the beauty of the cross Jesus makes my heart brand new. And he keeps perfectly the things that need holding into. He makes in me a container that holds his love wholly. A heart that beats for him and treasures the only thing really worth possessing - himself.

Jesus, you are good and you do good! Like yummy black bean hummus you feed me with your words of life. These are the things I want to keep. But how often my soul makes space to hold and garner things that aren't worth preserving. Purge me Lord. Get rid of the spaces that are no match for the new person I am in you. Create in me a clean heart oh God and help me to store up treasures in heaven.  You always win the Will-All-This-Fit-In-Here game because you only give exactly what I need. Thank you. Use my heart Jesus, that others may taste and see that you ARE good. 

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Thought Check!

Remember in high school on the church bus trips some adult trying to be hip and funny would yell "Hand check!"? And all the kids put their hands up to show that no ones hands where anywhere they weren't supposed to be.  It was half playful and half serious. It was always for those kids who sat in the back and mysteriously got suddenly sleepy! Teenagers are teenagers and hormones don't care if it's a church bus or a school bus. I know cause that was me and Mike. (Did I just confess that?!) Temptation can be very inviting when the setting is just right.

It occurred to me today I need someone to randomly durring tempting times in life to yell at me "Thought Check!" It seems far too often my thoughts are not where they are supposed to be. It's seductive to look at our feelings and circumstances and let our minds run away with what ever bait is put before us. Since the garden, the enemy has been after our thoughts. He is ever skillful at presenting opinions that try to keep us from knowing God and believing him. See if you can relate:

~Life hands over a loss of some kind - a relationship, a death, a job. It's tempting to think God doesn't care, he could have prevented that.
Thought check! - Jesus weeps with us when our hearts our broken. There is a day coming when he will restore all things as they should be. (John 11:32-44) 

~Finances seem impossibly tight and wiggle room nonexistent.  It's tempting to think if I just had more money I'd be _______.
Thought check! - The things that money can do and buy are temporary treasures that have an end, can break, are quickly outdated and can be stolen/destroyed. Jesus says store up treasure in heaven and not to worry about food and clothes and basic needs. God gave us his Son, don't we know he will freely give us all we need? (Matthew 6:19-34; Romans 8:32)

~The future is uncertain in a difficult circumstance - think a diagnosis, home value/the economy, a relationship teetering on the edge, or the direction your company is going. It's tempting to worry about the outcome and what that outcome means for you.
Thought check! - We are told to pray, take our thoughts captive and think on things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent and things that are worthy of praise.   (Phil 4:6-8, 2 Corinthians 10:5)
I'm learning that right thinking leads to right believing which leads to right living. Scripture teaches that our lives can be transformed if we will quit our stinkin' thinkin' and start to ruminate on what he illuminates. (Hey hey hey! How about that witty, corny rhyme?) We don't have to give into to whatever temptation the enemy wants to deceive us with. We can make a choice to oblige when the Helper whispers "Thought Check!" to our hearts. Check out this verse and be encouraged:
The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure. 1 Corinthians 10:13

So how about you? Is the bus ride tempting your emotions to believe something other than the truth?
Need someone to yell Thought Check! at you? It's OK, I'm right there with ya. Man! Did someone just take their shoes off?! Gross! I'm just hoping the van driver doesn't pull the ol' Brake Check! trick on us too. Are we there yet?


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Busted

In the last few weeks it seems as if my girls have taken "I'm going to aggravate my sister" pills in high dosage. The nit picking and provoking, the pesky tone of voice and little peeves have just been in abundance. And it's all little things. They are not calling each other names, they are not out and out fighting, they are not on a scale of 0-10 in Obnoxiousville, they are just not enjoying each other. Consequently, no one else is enjoying them not enjoying each other either!

Friday night after a particularly prickly exchange between them, Mike and I decided some intervention was necessary. We came up with the plan to make them hold hands for an hour and a half. Great idea! I wish I could say I came up with it on my own, but I saw a similar idea on Pintrest. And so the discipline began. Here is the first few minutes of joy.


Hahahaha I must confess, I might have enjoyed this a bit too much. We gave them a few chores to do and it wasn't long before there were giggles galore and the irritability was gone. It was a great exercise and reminder of how we want to live life. After the time had lapsed and they were granted their freedom back, we talked about love from 1 Corinthians.

The NIV passage reads this way: 
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

I was focusing on the it is not easily angered, keeps no record of wrongs part and that's when the conviction fell. I was busted.  The very thing I was trying to instruct in my girls I felt the Lord say in my spirit; You too!

I have an area in my life, probably as close as a sister, where my heart is prickly. I get irritated quickly in this place and have been holding a running list in the back of my mind of offenses. Instead of looking to trust and hope I have been easily angered. And now I have been pegged on it! Oh goodness, Lord, if you make me hold hands for an hour and a half.....please no! I don't think you'll be as amused at my selfishness and immaturity as I was with my girls! HA!

My girls really do love each other and most of the time get along wonderfully. I am one blessed mom. And in this prickly area of mine, when all layers are pulled back, love is there too. Reminds me of Psalm 133:1 - Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! How true is that?! What parent doesn't want their children to get along and love each other well? God the Father included.

As I patiently(ahem) explained yet once again the acceptable sisterly behavior, grace for them rushed in me as the speech became less for them and more for me. And isn't that also just like God the Father too? How patient is he and how blessed am I! However, I'm still asking for the no holding hands discipline. Grin.

Precious Jesus, how great is your love that covers a multitude of sins! May I be a catalyst of your extravagant grace I receive. Thank you for your patience as your teach me yet again of your amazing love and what it is to love well. And please don't make me hold hands, please don't make me hold hands, pleeease don't make me hold hands! hahaha You are easy to love Lord, you are good and you do good! Thank you! 




Monday, January 28, 2013

Rest

Do you ever have those times where you are hearing and seeing the same thing over and over? That has definitely been going on here under the topic of rest. Multiple conversations with multiple people, in books I'm reading and in sermons I'm listening too. Seems God's trying to tell me something!

I wanted to share a few nuggets I've gleaned from the last few weeks.

     ~The greatest expression of faith in God is to rest in his care. - Joseph Prince

     ~Moses won the battle and the people he led experienced victory while he was seated (a position of rest).  Exodus 17: 8-13.

     ~Jesus fed 5,000 men and his preparation instructions were to have the people sit down (a position of rest).  John 6:10.

     ~The enemy is restless. (Matthew 12:43) This bring new context to 1 Peter 5:7-8: Cast your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be sober minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. The instruction is to be in anxiety free - resting in Him. The enemy wants to rattle you and take your rest as he is restless.

     ~Rest does not mean inactivity. Rest means knowing and believing at your core that God is for you and not against you. -Joseph Prince

     ~Of the 10 commandments God gave, He spent the most words on instructions for the Sabbath, the day of rest - 98 words in the ESV translation. (Exodus 20:8-11)

     ~The Sabbath (the day or rest) isn't for the sake of the other days of the week, but the other days of the week are for the sake of Sabbath. This great day isn't an interlude but the climax of living. A. J. Heschel

     ~The Sabbath (the day of rest) isn't about what is done or left undone as much as breathing in the goodness of God. - Margaret Feinberg

     ~The fight of faith we have to fight is to enter his rest. (Hebrews 4:1-11)

     ~To not rest is disobedience and a form of unbelief. (Hebrews 3:18-19)

I am coming to realize that to rest is not a punishment, but a privilege. It puts me in a position of provision and enables me to see that God is who he says he is, that he does what he says he will do and eliminate any confusion about who gets the credit.

Where are you at unrest? What is the boiled down lie? How can you apply God's truth and enter the rest he has for you? Be encouraged today! He has green pastures, still waters and restoration for your soul! Fight to believe it! He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:32)

Lord, there is no good thing you will withhold from us. May we fight to know that truth in the depths of our convictions and find rest for our hearts. You are so good! Thank you! 



Monday, January 21, 2013

Boundaries

It's a new year and I'm one who loves a fresh start. After a successful 30 pound loss a few years ago I joined Weight Watchers again to finally reach my goal. I stopped short last time thinking I could make it there on my own, but never did. Thankfully, I'm not back at square one, but actually right where I left off.

Last time I used the WW program, it was great! Very simple and easy to use. There is an app for it which made all the difference in my success. Every time I needed to make a decision about what to eat, I could consult my phone and was empowered to achieve my goal.  In the grocery store, out at a restaurant, even tips for portion sizes at those pot luck meals God lovin' church folk have, help was there.

If you are unfamiliar with how the WW plan works, each and every food is assigned a point value. Based on your starting place and goals, you are assigned an allotment of points each day to consume. You can earn points by exercise and there is also a weekly bank of extra points to pull from in the event of a sweet tooth that wont quit, a special occasion or an emotional/hormonal fit of desperation.

I really love this plan because it is so cut and dry. There is no guess work. There is also nothing that is totally off limits. I could have a Dairy Queen large vanilla malt shake! It would use my total daily allotment of points but I could do it! One of the best things about it is all fruits and veggies are zero points. So I could have that DQ milk shake and then eat salads and strawberries the rest of the day. Hey! There's a plan!

The good thing is I really do enjoy fruits and veggies. I have noticed in the past after a short time off refined sugar, natural sugar is plenty sweet and my craving for refined sugars are significantly less. And on those days I find myself really hungry, I can have all the apples and bananas I can handle. Of course those are the choices that lead to a healthy life and an ideal weight anyway. And herein lies a parallel I see in scripture.

We were given boundaries that Jesus summed up in saying love God and love others. Simple guidelines that should steer our every decision. Every choice can come under this filter: Will this enable to me love God and love others more? But there are times we are given to operate outside those borders and there is a bank of grace for that. Paul said that where sin abounds, grace abounds more.

There are also the fruit and veggies of life too. Paul gave us a list of actions in Galatians that we can do in abundance all day everyday; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. He said there are no limits on any of them. We can act fully in them with no recompense.

And just like fruits and veggies lead to a healthy life and idea weight, isn't it true that a life filled with the fruit of the Spirit lead us to being conformed into the image of Jesus? Also true is the craving issue. The more we indulge in the life in his Spirit, the less our desire is for the things of the flesh. How simple and concise. However, I'm pretty sure that self control is the equivalent of brussel sprouts. Bleh, someone pass me a Kiwi, that's gotta be joy or peace right?

Oh taste and see that the Lord is good! Psalm 34:8

Lord Jesus, you are so faithful. How simple is your plan for abundant life for us. Thank you for the smorgasbord of options in food and in actions. For those days when my willpower is gone and I need your stockpile of unending grace, my soul is eternally grateful. Thank you for being with me in every choice I have to make. May they make you proud. I love you Lord. 


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Covered

When we moved to IL I envisioned the winter to be filled with six feet of snow for three and a half months. It was a hopeful dream for this former snow deprived Fl girl. When we got here, the winters certainly produced more snow than central FL ever saw but not the likes what I envision maybe North Dakota enjoys. I'm of the philosophy that if it's going to be cold, let it snow. And lots of it! But around here the normal seems to be an inch or two every three or four weeks.

Last week brought two snows in rapid succession. I was giddy! My girls and I got out in the yard and made snowmen. Dirty snowmen mind you. Two inches is not enough to create what Hollywood does, but we had a great time none the less. Lumps of coal for eyes and a carrot for the nose just like the storybooks. Stinky Pete's snowman got a belt. So fashionable.

Later that afternoon we were driving through town while the warmth of the day was bidding the snow it's inescapable demise, my eye was caught by the beauty of the remaining small snow piles and tiny heaps. In certain places it lingers longer because the sun can never find it. Some rocks and yards look comparatively deep as they hide in the winter's shadows.  Branches and gardens look picture perfect covered in a fluffy white blanket.

But other areas are exposed to the bright warm rays. Science proves that the shallowest places will melt first and reveal the brown, dead earth beneath. Places of comparatively thick cold snow beside warmer places, barren and exposed. There is something beautiful to behold here. It's almost as if the snow clings together is desperation to fight against the sun's warmth, bound and huddling tight to not give way to the unavoidable fate and reveal it's hidden captive. It's a hushed stillness that commands attention. 

Then I see it. It is a picture of my heart. Of your heart. Of all hearts. We are the dead brown earth. Some places we let people see with no regard, exposed and naked. Those are the secure parts of our life, confident in what we have become. But the other places, those places that never see the sun, that never feel it's warmth, that hold on to the snow like a cover to provide some sort of sense of dignity; those are the places of our hearts where our fears reside. Where our shame is hidden, where our wounds are wrapped up tight and most inner secrets kept. The places we want concealed from the world around us.

And it occurred to me, that's exactly what Jesus does! I love the analogy of how he washes my sins white as snow, but this day He showed me he not only washes me, he covers me. He covers my heart at it's coldest spot.  He clothes me thickest around my shame. He clings and binds himself to my deepest wounds. He wraps me up where I'm most afraid of the sun's exposure.  He heaps and piles himself where I need it most for the purpose of protection, but also so that what others see is only his beauty. 

Scripture gives beautiful accounts of how he covers us beginning in the garden with animals skin and through the desert with the Israelites by his cloud. But the most touching reference I found was in Ezekiel chapter 16. He is speaking to the nation of Israel as a whole, but individually this verse seems fitting in the barren, dead of winter. Verse 8 says this:
When I passed by you again and saw you, behold, you were at the age for love, and I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your nakedness; I made my vow to you and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Lord God, and you became mine.
He covers us! With a blood covenant that cost him everything. And now we are his. Protected and hidden in his care. With our weaknesses safely exposed to him alone. Loved by a saviour that knows where we need him most. Covered by grace that runs deeper than any shadow.

Lord Jesus, how precious is your blood that not only washes me clean but covers me tenderly. What a beautiful saviour you are!

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Camry Experience

Years ago I heard a pastor share an illustration that has come to mind again and again recently.  He told a story of a time in his life where he needed a new vehicle. As he and his wife went to the car dealership they test drove several cars and came to settle on a Toyota Camry. The both very much liked the car and bought it. On the way home they noticed how many other Camrys there were on the road. In fact, several neighbors had one and they never realized it.  When they got home and showed the car to their teenage son, he was excited. He was familiar with the car and told his parents of several friends who also owned a Camry. It seemed as if Camrys were all around this family, but because they had not been in the market for a car, they didn't see them. 

And here is the parallel he made from this story. When we have an encounter with God our senses become awakened to him. When he speaks to us and we hear him it creates a fresh experience. It may be through scripture or a sermon. Through a friend or a devotion or a song.  But somewhere God gets our attention and we connect on a point. Our spirit becomes alive and we digest his life-giving word. It is a moment where we know this is God. Then as time passes, it's as though we see that truth everywhere again and again and our soul is thrilled and refreshed at each recognition. And we discover once more his omnipresence is real.  

The first way I can relate that comes to mind is the time when I was getting married. I remember as soon as I said yes it seemed as if everyone around me was also getting married. It felt like every billboard, commercial, TV show and magazine article was about weddings and engagements. Dresses, rings, cakes and flowers were everywhere I looked.  It was definitely because my senses were heightened to the experience in my own life.  

Here in more recent months this has been happening a lot with words like "all" and "seed" and "open". And I love it!  There is something so great about a fresh encounter with God. It is exciting like a new car or getting married. And when he confirms it by opening my eyes to see the same thing here or there, I just love that! What a comfort to realize he is all around me working and moving, involved and present.  He is creating an appetite in me for him. 

What about you? What was the last encounter you had with God? What is he showing you repeatedly? Or, are you in the market for a fresh experience? Has God ever surprised you with a promise that was precious like a diamond? Do share!

Matthew 20:32-33 - And stopping, Jesus called them and said, “What do you want me to do for you?” They said to him, “Lord, let our eyes be opened.” 

Be encouraged today, his name is Emmanuel - God with us!


Monday, July 2, 2012

Bruised

My grandmother has very thin skin. The slightest bump or scratch will bring up huge black and blue bruises that look as though she has taken a pounding. Often times she doesn't even know what happened but finds that once again something evidently did happen. Sometimes it looks as though she's been trying to be a stunt double for Jason Borne. Ok, maybe not that bad. But the point is her tender skin, along with the glorious wisdom of 83 years of life, leaves her to be cautious and selective as to what activities she might engage in.

The Lord brought her to mind this morning as he showed me Luke 4:18:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives, and recovering sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed.

This is one of my most favorite passages of scripture. The context is Jesus just coming out from his 40 day fast in the wilderness and then beginning his ministry. He enters the temple, stands to read, finds this passage from Isaiah and as the words come from his lips, the entire room is captivated by the grace in his voice and the anointing in his message.

That last line jumped of the page. I looked up the word oppressed and came to find that is also means bruised. He came to set free those who are bruised. My heart and emotions became flooded with his grace.

As I thought about what it means to be bruised and what causes bruises, this line became more and more precious. It's no secret that life bumps our souls around. Sometimes we have attempted a Jason Borne stunt that left us a mess, but other times we don't even know what it is that injured us. A difficulty. A worry. A diagnosis. A loss. An incident that leaves a mark and says there is something broken here. Too often before we know it we find ourselves covered in blemishes that eventually lead us through life guarded and unable to do all we want to.  But this is why he came! To set those of us that are wounded and live life reservedly free! Not free from pain; he has promised there will be troubles. But to be free from being so quick to bleed for ourselves. Free to abandon ourselves to his care and to bleed for others. This is the exact example he showed us. With no regard to himself he lived a life offered for others and hemorrhaged on our behalf. 

A few lines later in the passage that Jesus read from in Isaiah he tells us the reason he came: That they may be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified (Isaiah 61:3).

You see, freedom is the place where we no longer take precaution for our own soul and emotions. We are such poor gate keepers at that anyway. Freedom is being convinced of the Father's great love for us. Convinced past a head knowledge, but graciously overwhelmed and compelled to action. That is what it looks like to be an oak tree planted by the Lord. Solid and firm in him with branches that bring shade, relief and shelter. Leaves that exchange toxins for life and bring color and beauty. Righteousness planted by him and for him.

He was sent to set at liberty those who are oppressed.

So, after you pull back all the layers, what is at the heart of what's squeezing you? What would bring you freedom?

He came for that.

Precious Jesus you became sin that I might become righteous. Unimaginable! Whatever safety and security I have falsely accrued I count as loss that I may gain you. May I be found in you; sharing in your sufferings and in death to self. Help me to see the freedom you are before me. I believe Lord, help me in my unbelief. You are so good! 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Taking every thought captive

Some Monday mornings I wake up and am ready to charge hell with a water gun. Other Mondays I wake up and the smallest trickle of water can put out my seemingly dwindling embers. This morning seemed as if there were only smoldering ashes and the booming thunder of an immanent rainstorm was echoing loudly.

That's how the enemy works isn't it? Like a lion that roars and threatens the weak and wounded. But there is truth greater than the lies he hurls at us. And it brings us to a fork in the road. What will we believe today? What thoughts will we dwell on? Will we live like we know the truth or like the lies are reality?

2 Timothy 1:6-7 says: For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.  For the Spirit of God did not make us timid but gives us power, love and self-discipline.

I don't think I'm the only one the enemy is lying to. How about we fan these embers with some truth? We can burn for him even in a downpour.

In Jesus I am:

~loved! John 3:16 For God so loved (insert your name) that he gave his one and only son that when (     ) believes in him, (     ) will not perish but have everlasting life.

~chosen! Ephesians 1:4 Even as he chose (     ) in him before the foundation of the world that (     ) should be holy and blameless before him.

~made new! 2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore if (     ) is in Christ, (     ) is a new creation. The old has passed away, behold the new has come. (Last year, last week, last night is gone! Today is a new day!)

~confident! Philippians 1:6 I am certain that God, who began a good work within (     ), will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

~victorious! Romans 8:37 No, in all these things (     ) is more than a conqueror through him who loves (    ).

~free! Galations 5:1 It is for freedom that Christ has set (     ) free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (Read that one again! We do not have to be slaves to anything. Not to emotions, not to addictions, not to fear, not to the past - he has set us free!)

He is working. In us, around us and through us. He sees us. He knows us. He loves us. He is with us. And He is greater! Praise his name!

Be encouraged today and fan those embers with the truth till that flame is roaring hot and burning off those lies and sharing the light with others who are in the dark. This is what we were made for!

Thank you Jesus for the truth of your word. Wash my mind in it today. All attention belongs to you Lord. You are so good!  



Saturday, June 2, 2012

Naked and Unashamed

The subject of condemnation has been in front of me for several weeks now. It's a trigger topic for me. One that makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up and I fight against with all I have. The Lord has been showing me several things lately and yesterday was the most beautiful thing yet.

To condemn means to express strong disapproval or adverse judgement. It is everything we should feel in the presence of a holy God apart from Jesus if that could that even be attained. Whether it is real or imagined, projected or self imposed, it is one of the most awful and painful things to deal with. God sent his Son not because he disapproves of us, but exactly the opposite, because of his great love for us. John 3:16-18 gives lots of insight to this.

Yesterday I was reading John Piper's book The Momentary Marriage and he was discussing Adam and Eve and the original marriage. He talks about the reason Adam and Eve were able to be naked and unashamed is not because they were perfect and had nothing to be ashamed of. Although this was a possibility, Piper gives a few reasons this theology doesn't work. He suggests the reason they were able to be shameless was because they were in the fullness of covenant love. In other words, they were free from shame because they had no fear of disapproval from each other.

Oh how I love this! It made me think of Hebrews 4:13 - And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him who we must give an account.

And a most alluring picture is made when we tie this in with 1 John 4:18 - There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been made perfect in love.

Did you catch that? We are already naked and exposed before him and his love that endures forever  casts out fear of punishment. I love that! Did I mention I love that?

You see, in the garden Adam and Eve experienced the completeness of God's pledged love. There was no reason to fear His disapproval of them. There was absolute vulnerability and boundless assurance. That is the original way God wanted to be in relationship with us. For us to be able to know the freedom of taking every thought, every question, every hope, dream and desire to him and never feeling like he might disapprove of us.

What happened in the fall, and in every situation we are prone to feel condemned, the enemy whispers in all manor and variety of words but the same idea: "You can't really trust His perfect love." The enemy throws out a bait of doubt and if we take it, his classic calling card of shame is sure to follow.

I fully believe that Eve could have taken that apple to God and said "Hey God, this snake is telling me something about good and evil. What is that? What does he mean?" God is big enough and secure enough in who he is that he can handle our questions. He created our frail frame and knows just how limited we are. I would dare suggests he even expects our questions as we saw that he walked with Adam and Even in the cool of the day.  In the same way that I hope and expect my kids to come to me with all their questions and hopes, fears and dreams, I believe those were the same conversations God had with Adam and Eve on their evening walks.

He offers through Jesus, and desires for all people, to experience the beautiful gift of being naked and unashamed.  Totally transparent, and completely without fear. As John said "made perfect in love." These are the examples we saw him live out in his encounters with Nicodemus, the woman at the well and the woman caught in adultery.

This is the picture he wants to paint in a marriage - a bride and a groom unveiled and unafraid. This is the picture he wants for the body of Christ to express - forgiven and free to confess our sins to each other. This is the picture of love - not that we have nothing to be ashamed of, but living in a genuine alliance that covers a multitude of sins.

This is the covenant He has made with us. A blood covenant through his Son. One without condemnation where we are safe to be naked and unashamed.

If God says his chosen ones are acceptable to him, can anyone bring charges against them? Or can anyone condemn them? No indeed! Christ died and was raised to life, and now he is at God's right side, speaking to him for us. Can anything separate us from the love of Christ? Can trouble, suffering and hard times, or hunger and nakedness, or danger and death? No in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. Romans 8:33-37

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

How to make a difference for Christ in this age

I read the following post over at Serving Strong the other day. So simple, so good. Hope your summer is off to a great start!


Start each day with an uplifting song.
Be generous.
Encourage others.
Be real.
Admit mistakes.
Stand for what’s right; Right what’s worth standing for.
Listen to understand.
Laugh a lot.
Appreciate the dead; Appreciate the living.
Persuade to consider, not to win.
Care for yourself.
Share your story when you’re asked.
Compliment.
Dive into the deep end of Christ; Stop treading water.
Ask for little.
Use technology for good.
Do what you say.
Change your passwords every 6 months.
Be sensitive to each person’s emotions.
Blame no one.
Look for the opportunity.
Smile at the mirror.
Search the eye color in each person you meet.
Give the barista $5.00 to give to the next stressed person in line.
End each day with a Psalm.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

School's Out For Summer!

We made it through our first year of public school and what a great year it was. The girls had excellent teachers, support staff and classmates. Lots of learning happened and tons of fun too. And oh my gracious has Lucy changed and matured this year. Here they are back in August.


And here she is last week with her teacher. 

Ok,  so maybe she doesn't look so different to you, 
but this momma sure sees it. 

Stinky Pete and her teacher.

Wow! I can hardly believe I am now the parent of a first grader and a middle schooler! 

Stinky Pete's birthday was this month and we celebrated this weekend. What better way to prepare for summer than with a pedicure? 
That's a whole bunch of prissy in the tub scrubbin' feet! I'm not sure if there were more giggles or toes! And what good is a pedicure without a new pair of hand crafted flops? 


To fully get ready for summer, this year for Mother's Day I got to spend the whole day sewing! I had gotten all the parts for this project some time ago and have been waiting for the right time to whip it together. It's our official picnic blanket. 

It's just a simple bandanna quilt and I have wanted to make one for years. I found a denim bed skirt in FL years ago at a yard sale and knew instantly I wanted to back a bandanna quilt top with it. The bandannas were only a dollar at my happy place, Hobby Lobby. I got it all together on Mother's Day and finished it off this afternoon. There are all kinds of crazy, sloppy mistakes all over it, but my favorite part of this project is the FINISHED part! 


My lovely model! Grin. Can't wait to share some PB & J and goldfish with my girls on here. We have lots of summer plans already including a trip to NC to see family and back to FL as well. 
 Come on summer, we are ready!! 






Sunday, May 20, 2012

Loves Little or Loves Much?

Bible study this week took me to Luke chapter 7 verses 36-50. This is the portion of scripture where Simon invites Jesus over for dinner and the woman with the alabaster jar comes and publicly anoints Jesus' feet with her hair, tears and kisses. While Jesus is receiving this act of worship he makes a teaching moment with Simon. I've never really liked this passage because I identify more with Simon than the woman in the scene and that makes me very uncomfortable with myself.

Scripture doesn't tell us Simon's motives for having Jesus over for supper, but we do know that he was a Pharisee and that carries much definition on its own.  And given the ritualistic and perfect performance the Pharisees kept, it is interesting to note all the things Simon didn't do when Jesus got there.

As they were eating, the woman comes in and makes quite a public display of affection. Oddly enough the love that motivated this act is not what upsets Simon, but rather the reputation and character of the woman is what rattles him most. He is not upset over this display so much as that "a sinner" would touch Jesus.

 I love that we don't read Jesus' tone to be an angry one. It could be that Simon's thoughts were simply what he had been taught and had never ventured away from, something Jesus has grace for. We see Jesus teach in his usual pattern of a gentle parable and leading questions. A good coach always asks the right questions that will lead you to discover the answer yourself. Jesus leads Simon to a place where he could begin to look past a person's issues and see their heart. A heart that loves much and a heart that loves little. "Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven-for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little loves little," he says. Then he speaks to the woman and tells her "Your sins are forgiven. Your faith has saved you; go in peace."  In the camera view of this in my mind, I see Simon sit back and take it all in and I wonder, did he get it?

 As one who knows all too well a Pharisee's heart, it completely unnerves me to think that I might be one who Jesus considers "loves little."

I wrestled this out with Jesus hard. Thank you Lord for my upbringing and your hand of protection and provision over and on my life. Thank you Jesus that my testimony is not one I will be embarrassed to tells my kids about someday. Thank you God for the blessing of a family who lead me to you early in life and a church body that kept me busy enough to not get in difficult trouble.  You put people in my life that steered me well and lead me rightly, it has shaped me into who I am today!

But does all that mean I love you little?

Have there been times I've entertained you and neglected to worship you? Have I gained your gracious attention forgetting to honor you with all I have? Have I been in your presence and considered myself....anything other than "a sinner?"


Yes.


Devastating.


A brokenness comes over me as I repent and confess my arrogance and unworthy heart. Why are you so patient with me Lord? So gentle when you coach me to see me for who I really am? So gracious as you open my eyes to see you for who you really are?

Through my tears his tender voice responds, "Your sins are forgiven. Your faith has saved you, go in peace." And in this moment he shows me I have moved from identifying with Simon the self righteous to this unnamed woman, the worshiping sinner.  No longer to love little, but to go in peace and to love much.

Father, in the upbringing you allowed, somehow I picked up wrong theories and warped theologies.  Sometimes it's so hard to look past a person's issues and look to their heart, my own included. Transform my eyes Lord to see how you see.  Your kindness changes everything. I don't ever want to gain your attention again without giving you my all. May all of my days be a continual act of worship that shows you how much I love you. Your love is better than life! 







Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Adventure

I was the first to wake up this morning. A late night usually guarantees I'll be able to have a few quiet minutes in the morning. My favorite!

I started looking for something I had posted a long time ago on my blog and ended up reading several things I had forgotten about that made me feel like I was once so much stronger than I am now.  So I decided I would take full advantage of the quietness in the house and study some. I am currently working through an old book that I have previously done. It's a workbook/journal style book and it has been so interesting to read my thoughts from 6,7 years ago. My answer to some of the gut check questions this morning were exactly the same as they were last time I went through this. All of this reflecting reminded me of the simple fun I had yesterday.

Last night I hung out with a friend and we took our kids to the park. It was a relatively new park with great big, tall swings. They were the kind adults can swing on and get some good height. Well, if you don't know, I absolutely LOVE to swing. Such a simple joy in life to go back and forth and feel the rush of the air in your face and the fun of the plummet and rise over and over again. Pumping my arms and legs hard for the innocent delight. My girlfriend and I both jumped on one and giggled like 5 year olds racing to see who could swing higher and faster. What fun.

Pondering my walk with Jesus this morning in some ways felt like that swing. Times I've worked hard processing through the junk to get way up high. Spaces I've laughed with Jesus and felt sheer joy.  Moments I've heard him speak and felt him as close and real as the air sweeping my hair on my face.

But as great as all that is, when it's over, all I did was go back and forth. Repeating the same motion again and again. It sure is fun and I do love it but it made me think of something else He has been speaking to my heart lately.

He is a God of big adventure. Check these out:
However it is written, what no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived, the things God has prepared for those who love him. 1 Corinthians 2:9 
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work in us... Ephesians 3:20  
For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless. Psalms 84:11 
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels or demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39
Now as much as I love a good swing, I really love a good roller coaster. In fact my hubby calls me an adrenaline junkie. He's right. The bigger, the badder, the more Gs, inversions, twists, drops, and tricks the better. And I'm not picky either. Steel or wooden, daylight or blacked out, slow climb or sling shot start, inverted or regular, short or long, new or old, I love 'em all! (Side note here, I saw this yesterday and I can't believe I live so close!! I MUST go ride it!)

My God is a big God! He will not withhold good things from me when I walk with him. He will do more than I can imagine! He has prepared good things for me beyond my scope of compression. And he wants to take me on a ride that will soar heights, plummet depths, twist by angels and demons, roar through life past death, and shake through powers. All while I am safely strapped in his arms screaming and laughing and loving every thrill.

It's been great swinging back and forth gaining an appetite for a thrill and leaning to to trust that He is faithful and will not let me fall, but I'm ready for some big adventure. My seat belt's locked and the safety bar's been checked. The "all clear"has been given and I'm ready to go.

The wind blows where is wishes, and you hear it's sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit. John 3:8



Saturday, May 12, 2012

My identity

Have you ever seen those shows on The Learning Channel called "My Strange Addictions"? My family and I watched one the other day and it was so intriguing.  The first woman would not cut her toe nails or fingernails. All she could wear was flip flops and her activity and mobility was greatly hindered by choosing to keep the nails so long. It was beginning to affect her health as she could not get proper exercise and was a diabetic.

The second lady was addicted to eating dirt. Yes, like from the ground. Her favorite was potting soil.  This was affecting her health as well for obvious reasons. And it was also becoming a job risk since she was a landlord and was eating her tenant's soil.

Crazy I know! But there are enough people doing enough crazy things that The Learning Channel has made a series out of this stuff. Same way with the show Hoarders.

However my point in bringing this up is not to mock or judge someone, but because I noticed something I could identify with. The lady with the long nails emphatically said she would just die if she had to cut them.  The lady eating dirt said she could not imagine not eating soil, that it was her life. And I've seen enough of the Hoarders show where they come to that same place; time to make a change, and it nearly does them in.

So how in the world do I identify with this? I have things in my life that if someone told me I could never have again, I might think I'd die. You do too. Don't think so? Lets see, I'll go first. Can I go a month without any refined sugar? I mean no chocolate, no gum, no dessert, no mints. NO SUGAR. I think I could do that.    Maybe.

What about TV? Could I go 1 month without watching any TV at all? 30 days with no being a couch potato in front of the tube. Roughly 730 hours with no 2 hour movie breaks.  Might not be too bad, for the first few days...

How about internet? Can I find some other way to occupy my time than plugging in and scrolling endlessly on all my favorite social media sites? Ok, now we are getting serious. But really, should need be, I could do it. Like if I was in a coma.

But let's take it a step further. What about my kids, or my husband. What if someone told me I couldn't be a wife anymore or I had to stop being a mom. How would I handle that? What would I do? Who would I be?

And here is where I identify with the people on those shows and see a lesson that I believe Jesus has been patiently trying to show me for years. Yes, I said years. I'm a slow learner.

There are a thousand things every day that I can choose to have my identity in. Here are a few without even thinking too hard: a leader, a homeschool mom, a minister's wife, and having a successful income. But what about those other identities that are choices too. Like victim, hopeless, or depressed. Or how about even less obvious affinities we take on like offended, right, or entitled.

If someone told me I could never be right again for the rest of my life? Whoaa! Now I understand the feelings of those people on those shows. I also understand more clearly than ever the heart of the prodigal son. How quick we are to put our identities in things, in positions and in attitudes that we don't know how to function without. Things that we do and are as much a part of us as breathing.

The heart of the prodigal son, and the older brother too, was a heart that was not satisfied in being the Father's son. They both wanted a different identity. The younger wanted independence and the older wanted honor. Neither could just rest in being their father's son and live a life fully in that alone. Oh the simple truth of my heart and the people on those extreme shows.

We have so many options all day long of who we will choose to be. My prodigal heart has come to its senses again. I realize that I am starving and apart from Christ, I am not worthy of the only identity that will truly fulfill me:
                                                      His child.

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called the children of God! And that is what we are! 1 John 3:1



Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A Schedule

I have come to realize why I like running so much. I am a goal oriented person.  Accomplishing short term goals make me feel successful. Besides the fact of 20-30 minutes with nothing but my thoughts, the endorphins that kick in, and the energy produced afterward, the beauty of a training schedule is an excellent thing.

To have a road map of sorts put before you telling you exactly what you need to do each day in order to accomplish a given goal is incredibly attractive to me. One of the many great things is that it is nearly self guiding. It takes so much of the guess work out of how to be ready to cross the finish line. It completely puts the ball in my court. All I have to do is decide weather or not I'm going to do it. That is the blessing AND the curse.

Last January when I was still deciding weather of not to run a half marathon, Mike and I had a conversation that made me so mad at him. I wasn't fully convinced yet that I could run the whole thing, I am a run/walk kind of girl as of now. But my friend was committing to run the whole thing and I just wasn't sure I could do that. So as I was wrestling it out in my mind and with Mike and he said to me; "You're not gonna run it."

"What?!" How dare he call me out like that! He proceeded to tell me the truth about myself and how I had already given myself an out to run/walk it. I was so frustrated with him because he was right. My friend was running it, not run/walking it and I really wanted to train with her, but I knew if I didn't run it, that wouldn't happen. So, I had to decide if I really wanted this. Because if I did, I was going to be run/walking it and the training would be on my own.

So I committed to do it. I committed to train, to race, to finish. And it would be by myself. It was up to me every day of training to decide if I was going to do it or not. I had to resolve that this is what I was going to do and like Nike says, just do it.

I am discovering that my walk with Jesus in one way is exactly the same. I have a road map before me in the scriptures and an endless amount of resources to help me read it, study it, and digest it if I care to find one. The schedule is really very simple.
Get up.
Die to myself.
Find my life in Jesus.
Enjoy the day. 
It's just a matter of deciding if I really want to do it. No one's gonna make me and a divided heart will not get me across the finish line. It will only happen when I truly decide that the reward is greater than the sacrifice.

And it is.

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me." Luke 9:23 

Saturday, May 5, 2012

This is what you have trained for.

Two weeks ago I had an opportunity to hear pastor Wayne Cordeiro speak on sifting from Luke 22. He told a story of being on a rowing team and entering a 40 mile race.

He said everyone had a great start. He was feeling strong and performing well. At mile 10, he was still feeling good as were all the competitors. By mile 20 there was starting to prove to be a gap in those that were really able to win the race and those that were not. At mile 30 he was exhausted, spent and ready to quit.  But he said he came to realize that this was the very moment he had been training for. All the workouts, all the time and energy put into being the strongest and best rower was for this exact minute. It was here he coached himself to not give up. "This is what you have trained for!" he told himself. And he reached down to find more strength, fight through the fatigue and finish the race.

The moral of the story was that the reason you ever do any training is for the time when we are squeezed. The things we have deposited in our lives will be what comes out in those intense times in life.

I ran a half marathon last weekend, and I thought of that line so many times. A half marathon is thirteen miles and my training had made about eight or nine miles not too crazy difficult. On race day mile ten was pushing me.  My feet were tired and I was feeling kinda queasy. "This is what you have trained for!"  Mile eleven came and my toes were really, really sore, and I had a rock in each shoe. "This is what you have trained for!" Mile twelve was a bitter sweet mark, almost done, but somehow it seemed like it was the longest mile ever. I was reaching for every ounce of energy possible. "This is what you have trained for!" At the last half of the mile were two friends screaming my name cheering me on. What an encouragement! "This is what you have trained for!" I few steps later, one more friend yelling and cheering for me! "This is what you have trained for!" And finally the finish line. What a moment! This is what I had trained for!

A sweet friend was there to greet me and celebrate. Yes, celebrate the accomplishment, but celebrating that I didn't give up. Giving up is always the easy way out. I have so many thoughts about it all. So many spiritual parallels. I see a sifting in areas of my life and I want all the junk brought out. All the pride, all the selfishness, all the obnoxiousness. All those things that I have deposited and deposited over and over again have been coming up as I have felt squeezed in a few ways. The whole purpose of a filtering sieve is to bring to the surface all the junk and get rid of it. And I want it all up. All up and out. Then, when it's done and over with, all I want left in me is Jesus.

A few verses come to mind:
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 1 Corinthians 9:24 
I have been crucified with Christ, it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the son of God who loves me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20

That is what I want my life to show I have trained for. Less of me, more of him.

These are some of pastor Cordeiro's impactful thoughts:
     ~Sifting accelerates spiritual growth.
     ~The best veggies grow in sifted soil.
     ~Sifting enables us to teach out of our scars, not our theories.
     ~If you are not on the road to the right goal, then the road to success and failure are the same road.
     ~Everything God has invested in you is for the moment you are ready to quit. It's to get you through that dark night of the soul.

 Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers. Luke 22:31


He is praying for us, what do you want to train for?

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Celebration Sunday


Our previous pastor of my church family instituted regular prayer services and celebration services in the mix of whatever given sermon series. It's a wonderful thing. I love going to hear a message that God has laid on a pastor's heart, but I have come to love just as much the times we corporately seek God in prayer and the times we choose to stop, look around and celebrate what God has done and is doing. It is a gift to be able to take the time corporately to do this.

This week is a celebration Sunday and I am in the mood to celebrate! I've had an icky few weeks of God showing me my ugly heart. It is my usual nature to wallow in this recognition and beat myself up a bit. However, this time there has been progress. So clearly I heard Jesus speak to me heart the words of John 8:11 "Go and sin no more." It is of no benefit to punish myself for an issue that Christ has already paid for. He willingly took the beating that I know I deserve. Now my job, since he has pointed out the problem, is to go and change that behavior. And in the grace that's given with no ounce of condemnation, what love fills my heart to make the change!

So, this week as I gather with my local community of believer to celebrate Jesus, I'm excited.  I am celebrating Jesus' perfect life - a life that I can hide in because I'm not perfect. I am celebrating Jesus' blood spilled on Calvary - blood that covers me and grants my sinful heart access to a holy God. And I am celebrating Jesus' powerful resurrection - a resurrection that brings this dead heart to life and life more abundantly.

This is the day the Lord has made. I will be glad and celebrate!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Enough

I was studying Solomon last week for some writing that I do and an element of his life really peaked my interest.


The book of first Kings opens with the curtain coming to a close on King David's life and his son, Solomon, being appointed as the successor to the throne. Chapter 3 begins and tells us that Solomon loved the Lord. That he walked in his father's footsteps but then we are given a description that will ultimately define Solomon's legacy, "he also made sacrifices and offerings to other gods." He had a dream and the Lord said to him: "Ask for whatever you want, and it will be yours." Solomon's response was humble and admirable to say the least.  He acknowledged God's provision and protection to his father and asked only for wisdom on how to be a good king to his people. This pleased the Lord greatly. He honored the request and along with it gave wealth and fame beyond what any other had ever known.


Just a few short chapters later is where the plot thickens. In the opening of chapter 11 we find Solomon with quite a menagerie. 700 wives, princesses and 300 concubines. To be honest, I'm not exactly sure of the difference between a wife and a concubine, but however you shake the thing down, the only word available to describe the situation is excess!


The scripture says he clung to them (the wives) in love. (1 Kings 11:2) He loved them so much that eventually they turned his heart away from the undivided devotion to the one true God, the very foundation of his childhood training and experience as a Jew. What in the world would make a man cling to a lifestyle of this level of excess? How do you get to a place where your heart is attached to this kind of extravagant living? And was 1000 enough? I would guess not.


I began to think about David's childhood and what that must have been like as a shepherd. Scripture records that he had an experiential and intimate relationship with God. (1 Samuel 17:33-37) And then I began to think about what Solomon's childhood must have been like growing up as royalty.  Blessed and without want I would assume. I am in no way trying to paint a picture about money or lifestyle, but I am trying to suggest that David felt satisfied in God. And I think Solomon was still looking for something. With everything at his disposal and whim, what was he still missing?


In his blessed and bountiful upbringing, and wisdom and wealth filled reign, over time he forgot the connection that all he had the Lord had provided. Instead he bound his heart to what could not satisfy.


One moral of the story is that wrecked lives happen slowly. No one wakes up and says: Today, I will ruin my life and destroy all I have.  I don't believe one acquires 1000 women and comes to love them with a love that would deny all upbringing overnight. This dulling of the senses and out of control appetite I imagine snuck in slowly.  That's often the way the enemy lures us away. One glance at a time until our hearts our given fully to something other than Jesus.


It made me consider what sorts of excess is in my life. I don't really want to tell you about my craft room. The fact alone that I have a whole room in the house for crafts, sewing and the like suggests I might possibly, maybe just a little bit, be dealing with a smidge of .... lets call it blessing! Grin. Oh conviction. Lets move on. haha And I surely don't want to confess how many countless hours am I spending on FB and Twitter and Pintrest gathering thoughts and quotes, recipes and ideas. All with good intentions, mind you. I want to connect with people, have great nuggets of wisdom, and make something fun and creative for my family and friends. Side note here, Pintrest may or may not be contributing to my "craft room."Anybody else on Pintrest feel a little bit like a virtual Hoarder?  Is that going to be the next TLC show?  HA! I digress. The fact is, after a quick peak at my own life,  I'm sure not ready to fight for some grounds for accusation at the lifestyle of what was the wisest man on earth.  


But really, what's going on here? What is it that makes us constantly want more? Why does it seem at times we are never satisfied in a space where clearly, abundance flows? 


Solomon had no comparison. There was none wiser, none richer, none more famous. If I crafted and sewed every day from now till next Christmas, I wouldn't be able to use all I had, or run out of ideas or connections for more ideas. The excess is profound. 


But I don't believe that excess is the problem. We serve a God who is able to do exceeding above all we can think or imagine. And he tells us that when we give it will be given back to us; pressed down, shaken together and running over. I think the issue at hand is our appetite. I believe God made us to crave and that there is no fault in desire. The key is however, what is it that we are going to try to fill ourselves with? I think Solomon was keenly aware of the empty hole. His own words in Proverbs say 'above all else a man desires unfailing love.' What I think that David understood more than Solomon was that God alone is the only one who is unfailing. Here are some of David's thoughts in the Psalms: 
Your steadfast love is better than life. 
My soul will be satisfied (in you) as with fat and rich food.  
My soul clings to you. 
The old saying 'you can't fit a square peg in a round hole' is true. God made us to crave, but the only thing that deeply satisfies is Him. Things of coarse will always fail us somehow even if only in getting old. And one does not have to live much life at all to realize that people, even 1000, will fail us also.  It is against this backdrop of unfulfilled excess that there is a new sweetness to Jesus' words: 
                                   "My grace is enough for you."


O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

If you only knew

Well it's the last day of January, so I'm not technically too late for the whole New Years post am I? My new years resolution was to stop procrastinating, but well .... Just kidding, I'd never make that resolution. Grin.

But the New Year did come and go and in the bustle of it all I didn't make time to do the whole reflect-on-the-past-and-dream-for the-future-thing till a few weeks ago.

As I was reminiscing the past year on my blog, I noticed while there were some tough things in 2011, there were lots of good things too. My word for the year last year was obedience. What I wanted from God was not a master/slave type of obedience. But a closer walk with Him. A keep in step with the Spirit, personal relationship type of obedience. Obedience that is a response from love, not from command. There has definitely been progress there.

I kept reading even past 2011 into 2010 and was reminded of some truth I felt God speak to me in a new way. I had blogged about a passage in Matthew and condemning the innocent. I was dealing with my own insecurity and the fact that I needed to stop rehearsing abusive thoughts towards myself.

Well God just so worked it out that the day before I read that old post, I was writing and studding this same passage for a different connection.

The scripture is Matthew 12:1-8 and the setting is Sunday, the Sabbath. The disciples are hungry and as they are walking through the wheat fields, they help themselves to some dinner. The Pharisees observe this and start a'fussin. They rebuke Jesus for the unlawful act of working on the day of rest.  Jesus accurately uses scripture to correct them and help adjust their flawed thinking. What he says to them grabbed me as if Jesus turned from the Pharisees and began speaking directly to me;
"And if you had known what this means, 'I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is the lord of the Sabbath." 

The words 'I desire mercy' rang in my head.

One of the things that made 2011 tough in some ways was a period of transition. Life always brings change. And change brings to the surface stuff that you may or may not have recognized, or more importantly, may or may not have wanted to deal with.  And upon remembering, (oh the pain of transparency) the Lord has revealed a critical spirit in me.

Ministry is tough. Because when ministry is as it should be, it's not about programs or events or Sunday mornings. Ministry is about people. And people, beginning with me, are messy. And just like a Pharisee whose vision gets too tightly zoomed in on 'this is how we do it', I forget that God is sovereign and not really interested in everyone keeping my rules that falsely make my little corner of the world feel secure.

How intriguing that my "goal" for myself last year was to obtain a more loving relationship with my Creator by keeping in step with him. The very thing I want for myself is the very thing he wants for everyone.

He desires I give mercy to the people around me that aren't keeping my "rules." He wants to walk with them too, and give them the freedom to eat when they are hungry. The truth is, when I find more comfort in obedience to my self imposed "rules" than in recognizing Jesus, I'm living as if he is not the Sovereign God that he is.

He is the Lord of the Sabbath, and of every other day of the week. And he is working and moving in other peoples lives at different times and ways than how he works and moves in mine. And to be critical of what Jesus himself is allowing displays a dangerous lie.

He is God. And he is Sovereign.

And his loving compassionate heart desires mercy.

The delicate intimacy that an ever reigning God has indivisibly linked to compassionate kindness is the beauty of the gospel.  It is exactly what he means when he defines himself as love. He didn't come here to condemn me. And he didn't come here to condemn anyone else. He came to bring mercy. And satisfaction not from food. And comfort not from rules. And fulfillment not from good behavior. Treasures I am learning as I walk with him.

The mercy that he brings allows for relationship. Relationship most importantly with him, but also with each other. Mercy that is ready to feed the hungry. Mercy that is inconvenient and selfless. Mercy that is judgement free. Mercy that gives life to this hungry, selfish, unreasonable heart.

So now I know.  He desires mercy.

Freely you have received, freely give. Matthew 10:8

Precious Jesus, how freely you have given grace and mercy to me. How selfishly I have held onto it until it has become a moldy critical mess inside. This is why your mercies are new every morning! Help me to remember who you are and to give like you give.  Thank you that you are in control. Thank you for your patience as I slowly realize more and more just how in control I am not. Your grace is enough Jesus. Enough for me and all those around me. Forgive me and remove this prideful critical spirit. Make my heart a catalyst of your mercy Lord, and hold me accountable for what I now know. Your love is so beautiful! 

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Kids

Do you ever have those times when you are reading scripture and you see something you've never seen before even thought it's been there all along? This has happened to me several times in the past few weeks.

The first was when I was studying Hannah's story in first Samuel for some writing I was doing. Chapter 3 reveals Samuel's calling in the opening verses by labeling him as a young man. Many translations read "boy." This account in scripture jumped off the page at me. The dialog that takes place is incredible. Samuel hears God, responds "here I am" and doesn't wait for a response but runs to his trusted leader. (There's a blog post in itself.) Eli tells him, "I didn't call you, go back to bed." The whole thing plays out again and when Eli realizes what's really going on, he says "Oh yeah. That's God. Tell him your listening. Then listen."

Instructions that seem to roll off the tongue as if conversing audibly with God in the middle of the night is as common as taking out the trash. The details given are few, yet the message is clear. God is speaking to this child. And the child is hearing God speak. Astounding.

Then at group later that week, we were discussing David's anointing to become king over the nation of Israel in 1 Samuel 16. We considered that this happened when David was possibly as young as 9 or 10 years old. A juvenile. A preteen potentially. Anointed to be king over God's chosen people. In this year with a presidential election on the horizon, this thought is almost indigestible.

In bible study the following morning, a quick reference to Hagar's story was made in Genesis 21. She and her son are in the wilderness about to die. Verse 16 records the desperate cries of a mother begging for mercy. But verse 17 says: And God heard the voice of the boy, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, "What troubles you Hagar? Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is."

Woah. Again, such few details supplied except a mother's request and God's response to an unrecorded prayer from a kid.

Wow! How many times before have I passed over these verses as if it was seemingly insignificant? God hearing, moving and providing on behalf of a boy. Jehovah anointing, what we would consider a minor, to be king of his chosen people. The I AM speaking and giving prophecy to a child that would be difficult at best for it's recipients to hear. Nearly unimaginable.

I have been thinking and rethinking about the three instances of God interacting with kids and I'm instantly reminded of Jesus saying "Let the children come to me, don't stop them. For the kingdom of heaven belongs to them," and "whoever humbles themselves like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."

While stewing and brewing over all these accounts, one thing is clear: Age is of no discrimination to Jesus.  That's very convicting to me as one who defines a main area of ministry life as my children. In what ways am I being diligent to show my children this quality of God? How am I leading my girls to pray and anticipate God to move and respond? Am I myself expecting God to hear and answer their prayers? Such real examples in scripture that have come alive and I can no longer act as if I haven't seen them.

God speaking to children. God hearing little one's prayers. God anointing a youth to profound leadership.

How tired God must get of the small box I keep trying to put him in? I'm so thankful for his patient grace that not only choose me and adults, but chooses children. My children and yours.

Lord Jesus, your ways are so much higher than mine. You use the things this world considers weak and lowly to display your glory so that no one can boast. Forgive me God for when I brush my kids away and am dismissive of their thoughts and actions of you.  Continually remind me of how much you treasure childlike faith. Transform my heart and the hearts of my girls into a place where your kingdom reigns. Hallelujah that you hear my children's prayers! Open their ears that they may hear from you. You Jesus, are my and my children's righteousness, holiness and redemption. All glory, from birth to death, is yours and yours alone. 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

They shall be called...

Yesterday morning my bible study took me to Matthew 5:9, a familiar passage of the beatitudes. It says this:
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God. 
A few things jumped out at me.

I learned long ago there is a great difference between a peacemaker and a peacekeeper. Far too often a peacekeeper isn't really keeping the peace. So much of the time in difficult situations we mistakenly think that if we don't say anything or just let stuff lie, then all will eventually be well. And, there are times that this is appropriate, however, I wonder if more often than not, this thinking proves more toxic than beneficial. It seems to me that the fear driven, forced indifference rarely brings real peace. This type of passive, responsibility-less, void of genuine love for another usually just brings a nice big pot to stew in, that eventually boils and explodes at the first stir.

To the contrary, peace making some times looks like having a difficult conversation with humility and compassion. Peace making sometimes looks like directly ending an unhealthy relationship. Peace making sometimes means standing up and speaking the truth in love with grace. Peace making is not always the most easy way out. Peace making, I believe, is often vastly different than peace keeping.

The other thing that grabbed me was the part that says "they shall be called".  I recently was taught a new to me method of studying scripture by learning how to ask questions to hear God speak. So my question is; who is going to be doing the calling? Who is it that is going to look at a person's life and say "Whoa! This person is a peacemaker. They must belong to God!"

I think there are several answers. First, I think God sees when we are living the sometimes difficult life of peace making and says "Yes! You are mine and I will pour out my favor on you!"

I also think that our christian brothers and sisters see when we are choosing to walk in genuine love for others and recognize the truth as they see it. And then the Spirit moves in them to heap blessings on us in gifts of grace and compassion, mercy and encouragement.

But the option that I felt God really impress on me as an answer were the people that have yet to have an encounter and intimate relationship with Jesus. John 13:35 came to mind which says this: By this all people will know that you are mine, if you have love for one another all the time.

It's only in walking with Jesus that we can ever have productive, difficult conversations. It's only in being led by His Spirit that we can have healthy, growing relationships. It's only by His power we can be bold and be strong in a fruitfully lasting way.

Real love for one another.
Being a peacemaker, not a pseudo peacekeeper.
Keeping in step with Jesus.

This is a life of blessing.

This is how I want to be called.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Full

My heart is so full today.

A beautiful friend in the hospital,
a very loved family moving away,
approaching holidays,
so many thoughts of love.

Seems to be a good time to check my focus.
Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in his wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
in the light of his glory and grace.

Thank you Jesus that even in the midst of so much life, there is nothing more captivating that you. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Yummy Comfort Food - Creamy Chicken Corn Chowder

Fall is in full effect here and it's time to bust out the soup recipes. This one is from my sweet friend in Florida. It makes A TON so be sure to use a BIG pot!














Ingredients:

3 lbs chicken breast
1 qt half and half
1/4 chopped green onions ( I like a little more)
8 oz cream cheese
2 tablespoons minced garlic (again, a little more never hurts)
3 cans Cream of Potato
2 can Cream of Mushroom
2 cans cream corn
3 cans whole kernel corn
Tony's Chachere's to taste
1 stick of butter


Directions:

Boil the chicken.  Then in a separate BIG pot, melt the butter. Add garlic and onions. Now cut up the cooked chicken. Add cream cheese, soups and half and half to pot. Mix well. Now add all cans of corn including juice. Mix again and let simmer. Add Tony's to coat the top good, stir in and give a rest between sprinkles. The more Tony's you add the spicier it will be. Enjoy.

This soup is so good and every time I've made it, it has been a big hit. I love that it's so easy and pretty quick to throw together. Makes a lot for leftovers or serving a big crowd.

What's your favorite fall comfort food?

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